How To Follow Your Optimal Diet During The Holidays (Even If You're With Family)

My mom sends me the same text every year as I’m getting on the plane to fly home for the holidays: “Is there anything you want from the grocery store?”

This innocuous text meant something very different in 2008, when I was 50 pounds heavier and used the opportunity to add my favorite treats to our family shopping list. Now, as I follow a strict Paleo diet, it’s an unwelcome reminder that I’ll be far from a Whole Foods or anything like it for 10 days, in a town in rural Pennsylvania, where cold temperatures and blizzards make going to the store impossible.

But it doesn’t have to be a setback. I like to think of being home for the holidays as a great time to get healthy and practice good habits, since “no time to work out” and “too stressed to eat well” aren’t quite valid excuses during a holiday break.

Whether you’re Paleo, vegetarian, gluten-free, or just trying not to eat pie for both breakfast and lunch, here are my best tips for following your optimal diet over the holidays:

1. Mentally remove environmental control problems.

Decide in advance that junk food isn’t part of your holiday eating plan. The economy-size pecan pie your dad buys from Sam’s Club might as well be a pile of mail sitting on the kitchen counter. No need to decide every time you see it; you’ve already decided that it — and things like it — are not going into that healthy body of yours.

2. Order your favorite healthy snacks in bulk and have them delivered to your destination.

The grass-fed bison bars and sweet potato chips made with coconut oil are definitely available on Amazon Prime for less than what you pay at the grocery store — I’ve already checked!

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3. Clue your family in.

The rules of a vegan or gluten-free diet might be a no-brainer to you, but family members aren’t always quite as enlightened. Luckily, there are ways to avoid “it does have dairy, but just a little bit!” comments from your older sister. It might seem high maintenance, but taking five minutes to send a quick list of no-no foods is more than worth the effort. Just as important: sending a “yes” list.

4. Be prepared.

Think through the number of meals you plan to eat at home in advance and make sure you have exactly what you need to make them all. As soon as you get home, hit the grocery store and make sure you have enough supplies for the week. Eating well will ensure you feel good enough to tackle your little cousin at the Christmas party and don't feel sluggish on January 1, when you go back to your everyday, non-vacation life.

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Photo courtesy of iStock

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